Senators Isakson, Perdue Fight for Georgia in Water Wars Dispute

Call for Senate to strip language harmful to Georgia from Energy and Water appropriations measure

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and David Perdue (R-GA) today urged Senate leaders to remove language in the Energy and Water appropriations bill that is a direct attack on the state of Georgia in the longstanding legal dispute with the state of Alabama over water usage. The offending language was inserted into the appropriations bill by an Alabama senator.

Isakson pointed to the harmful language included in the fiscal year 2016 funding measure that would give Congress the authority to intervene in the long-standing water dispute on the side of Alabama and against Georgia as the reason he will “passionately object” to this bill if it is allowed to proceed with the unfair language attached.

Senators Isakson and Perdue both voted against proceeding to the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act. The motion failed by a vote of 49-47.

Senators Isakson and Perdue argued on the Senate floor that Congress should not be in the business of taking sides in interstate disputes, especially in a case such as this in which litigation is pending.

“Included in this Energy and Water report is language that was circuitously placed into the bill that would disadvantage my state of Georgia and show a preference to other states that surround us,” said Senator Isakson during debate on the Senate floor. “I do not appreciate the use of an appropriations bill to direct the actions of the Army Corps of Engineers to disadvantage my state and advantage another state without debate, without any degree of direction, and in total conflict with the court's decisions of the past. So I reluctantly will vote ‘No’ on moving forward on cloture until we remove this language from the underlying bill.”

“As anyone can imagine, with nearly 30 years of court cases and 60 years of water rights issues, the line between who is right and who is wrong can sometimes get blurry,” said Senator Perdue. “But the fact is the Senate should not be intervening in disputes between the states. This is an issue that should be decided by the courts, and the Senate certainly should not allow one Senator to invalidate progress on a multistate water rights issue problem.”

“I want to applaud Georgia’s Governor Nathan Deal for his recent attempts to solve this issue and hope that one day we will reach a resolution to this problem that meets everyone’s needs,” concluded Senator Perdue.

Language is included in the 2016 Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Bill that would prevent the Army Corps of Engineers from addressing Georgia’s water supply needs in the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa River Basin.

The “reallocation” prohibited by this language has been central to an interstate dispute between Georgia and Alabama since 1990, when Alabama first sued to prevent Georgia from reallocating water within the basin. That lawsuit was dismissed as baseless in 2012 after 22 years of litigation. Currently, Georgia has a case pending before the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia that would require the Army Corps of Engineers to reallocate water based on Georgia’s water supply needs.